is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in the Philippines.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Philippines page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of
State Travel Advisory at the date of
this report’s publication assesses most of the Philippines at Level 2,
indicating travelers should exercise increased caution. Do not travel to the
Sulu Archipelago, including the southern Sulu Sea, or to Marawi City in
Mindanao. Reconsider travel to other areas of Mindanao due to crime, terrorism,
civil unrest, and kidnapping. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Manila as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Crimes of opportunity, including some violent crime, occur in Manila and other large
cities. Crime continues to remain a
significant concern in urban areas of the Philippines. According to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Investigation and Detective
Management, theft, physical assault, and robbery were among the most common
crimes reported to local authorities in 2019. Other common crimes included
pickpocketing, confidence schemes, and credit card fraud. Carjacking,
robberies, and violent assaults also occurred throughout the country. Review
OSAC’s report, All That You Should
PNP reported that crime decreased from 2018 to 2019 according to
statistics of index and non-index crimes. This includes crimes against person,
such as physical injuries and sexual assault.
Victims have reported robberies committed by taxi drivers and/or
individuals using stolen taxicabs. Reports of crime associated with other ride-sharing
services are relatively uncommon.
There have been reports of credit
card and ATM fraud. Use credit cards only at major retail facilities and banks.
Always check bills or statements for suspicious charges. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
Areas of Concern
U.S. government employees must
seek authorization for travel to Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, the Sulu Sea,
and southern Palawan. Martial law in Mindanao expired at
the end of 2019, but Proclamation No. 55 (the State of Emergency) remains in
Road Safety and
In most urban areas, traffic is
dense, chaotic, and unpredictable. The road system is frequently congested, and
drivers are often undisciplined. Be extra vigilant
when crossing the street; do not expect vehicles to yield or stop. Drivers regularly fail to yield to
emergency vehicles and do not adhere to general rules of the road. These
combined factors can impede the ability of emergency vehicles to reach the
scene of an accident in a timely fashion. Avoid driving off the national
highways and paved roads, which can be particularly dangerous, especially at
night. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s
webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
The safest way to travel using
taxis is to ask a hotel, restaurant, or business establishment to call a
reliable taxi service. Most taxi services (especially metered taxis and similar
car services) remain safe and reliable.
Always use extra caution when
hailing taxis on the street. Consider texting/calling a friend or local contact
to provide the number/name of the vehicle/driver upon entering the taxi. Do not
share taxis with strangers. Before getting into any taxi, always check to see
if the fare meter is functioning. If the taxi does not have a functioning
meter, or if the driver refuses to use the meter, do not use that taxi.
The availability and use of ride-sharing
services in metro Manila has increased significantly. These services have
generally proven to be very efficient and convenient.
Exercise caution while traveling
by inter-island ferry. Avoid overcrowded or unsafe transportation, especially
during storms. Accidents involving ferries are relatively frequent, and often
result in serious injury or death to passengers. Review OSAC’s report, Security In
Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
August 8, 2019, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rescinded the Public
Notice regarding security conditions at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL)
in Manila. Per the DHS announcement, the Government of the Philippines has made
significant improvements to the security operations of MNL.
and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
U.S. Department of State has assessed Manila as being a HIGH-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
violence continues to affect primarily the Mindanao region, in the country’s
south. Notable groups include the New People’s Army (NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group
(ASG), and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Elements within the two main insurgent
groups, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), continue to pose a security threat. A splinter group
of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has been
responsible for several attacks. Some groups have pledged allegiance to the
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Terrorist and armed groups continue
to conduct kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks targeting foreigners,
civilians, local government institutions, and security forces.
areas, including Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, and the Sulu Sea represent a
higher security risk. Terrorists and armed groups may conduct attacks with
little or no warning. Past targets have included tourist locations,
markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. The
Cotabato City area, as well as the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan
Kudarat provinces remain in a state of emergency and continue to see a greater
police presence. U.S. government employees must obtain special
authorization to travel to Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, and thus have
limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in those areas.
than a decade, terrorists, insurgents, and criminal actors have carried out
major attacks against civilians. Most of these have occurred in southern and
western Mindanao and on the islands of Basilan and Sulu. Some notable recent attacks
- In July 2018,
suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed 11 people when a van with an improvised
explosive device (IED) exploded at a military checkpoint in Lamitan.
- In August
2018, BIFF militants killed three people and wounded 36 during the 60th
anniversary of Hamungaya Festival in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.
- In September
2018, an explosion in Isulan killed two people and injured 14.
- In December
2018, a bomb exploded outside a shopping mall in Cotabato, killing two people
and wounding 35. Authorities deactivated another suspected IED found in a subsequent
search of the area.
- In January
2019, bombings at the Jolo Cathedral resulted in 20 fatalities and 82 injuries.
The Indonesian group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) claimed the attack together
- In April
2019, a restaurant bombing in Isulan in the province of Sultan Kudarat resulted
in five injuries.
- In June
2019, two suspected ASG suicide bombers struck a military base in Jolo, Sulu.
- In September
2019, an IED explosion in the motorcycle parking area near a bakery in Isulan injured
- In September 2019, a suspected ASG suicide bomber
attacked a military checkpoint in Sulu. Apart from the suicide bomber, there
were no reported injuries.
demonstrations are common in front of and nearby the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Various
groups organize the demonstrations are, including Filipino college students,
the Communist Party of the Philippines, and various labor/socialist organizations.
Many of these demonstrations contain an element of anti-U.S. sentiment. PNP
officers intercept most of the protest groups. The demonstrations typically attract
fewer than 200 people. Injuries are rare, though demonstrators have assaulted
the police and defaced the walls and the main gate of the Embassy. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Manila as being a HIGH-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. While political violence is present throughout the country, it is
more intense in Mindanao. Political and clan violence may occur in many areas
of the country. Historically, elections have led to acts of violence targeting
candidates throughout the country and incidents of unrest have typically not
resulted in widespread civil disturbances or large-scale partisan clashes.
There are no scheduled elections for 2020.
violence (fundamentalist terrorism) mainly, but not exclusively, occurs in the
south. Ethnic violence is also present throughout the country, but is most
common in the southern Philippines. This mostly affects indigenous people
(locally called Lumads) and is practically undistinguishable from economic
violence (centered on land rights and resource conflicts) and political
violence (environmental defenders and opposition).
The Bureau of Immigration may consider the
participation of foreigners in demonstrations or political rallies in the
Philippines to be a violation of the terms of admission. Authorities may detain
and deport foreign nationals who participate in demonstrations, political
rallies, or other activity deemed anti-government in nature for violating immigration
Authorities may question you if you take
pictures of certain buildings (especially government buildings or military
installations). Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
The Philippines lies
along the Pacific Ring of Fire, and experiences frequent
seismic and volcanic activity. Small earthquakes occur regularly due to the
meeting of major tectonic plates in the region. Additionally, the island country
faces the Pacific Ocean, where 60% of the world's typhoons originate. On average,
25 typhoons enter waters around the Philippines every year. Other environmental
issues affecting the Philippines include flooding, air and water
pollution, deforestation, landslides, coastal erosion, and climate change.
The start of 2020 witnessed an
increase in volcanic activity. On January 12, the volcanic island in the center
of the Taal caldera began erupting, producing a nine-mile-high plume of steam
and ash, and significant ashfall in multiple municipalities up to 40 miles to
the north and northeast of the volcano. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology
and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) issued an alert level 4 for the Taal volcanic
eruption. Ash in the airspace and ashfall in the metropolitan areas of Manila
and Quezon City prompted the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to
suspend all flights from MNL temporarily.
In past years, typhoons and heavy rains
repeatedly caused extensive damage and landslides, resulting in loss of life,
homes, and electrical power in various regions. In September 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut
made landfall in Cagayan province, causing extensive damage and killing 150
Personal Identity Concerns
Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for female
There is no prohibition on entry into the
Philippines by LGBTI individuals. Transgender travelers should be aware that
immigration officials might require supporting documents if the gender in the
traveler’s passport does not reflect the gender expression of a transgender
person. According to Philippine law, an individual’s sex must match that
assigned at birth as reflected on the official birth certificate, even in cases
of post-operative sex reassignment. Same-sex relationships are not illegal in
the Philippines, but they lack legal recognition. No federal law prohibits
discrimination against LGBTI individuals. Several cities, however, have passed
local ordinances protecting LGBTI rights. Despite these legislative efforts,
LGBTI individuals continue to face discrimination and harassment. Review the
State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on
security for faith-based
Streets, buildings, and public transportation
may lack facilities for persons with disabilities. Government efforts to
improve access to transportation for persons with disabilities are limited due
to weak implementing regulations. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers
The production, trafficking, and consumption of illegal drugs is
an ongoing concern, and has become a priority issue for the government. Although
an anti-drug campaign launched in 2016 has focused primarily on arrests and
enforcement operations, the government has indicated that it intends to expand
treatment and rehabilitation activities.
Trafficking and abuse of methamphetamines remain the foremost
drug-related problem, followed by marijuana and, to a lesser extent, cocaine
and MDMA/ecstasy. Transnational organized crime groups exploit under-staffed
and under-resourced law enforcement and a weak judicial system to establish
clandestine drug laboratories and import wholesale quantities of methamphetamines
to supply the domestic market. Authorities have raided meth laboratories
throughout the country, including in major urban centers like Manila.
Penalties for drug-related crimes can be severe, ranging from 40
years to a life sentence in prison for drug couriers. Additionally, proposed
legislation under Philippine congressional review is seeking to revive the
death penalty for drug traffickers.
Kidnapping for ransom
(KFR) is a persistent problem throughout the Philippines. Over the years, KFR payments
have become a reliable source of funding for various insurgent groups in the
Philippines. In southern Mindanao,
KFR injects significant amounts of money into the local economy, which could suggest
tacit support by the local populace. In October 2019, armed men abducted a
British national and his Filipino spouse from a beach resort in Mindanao; Philippine
forces rescued the couple in November. In May 2019, kidnappers killed a
59-year-old Dutch hostage on the island of Jolo.
The PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group
(AKG) is primarily responsible for kidnapping investigations. In 2019,
kidnapping victims were predominantly Philippine and Chinese citizens. AKG
officials report kidnappers in Mindanao are mostly Muslim extremist
individuals/groups. While kidnappings occur throughout the country, most cases
appear to be criminal and related to casinos and Philippines Offshore Gaming
Operators (POGO). Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
PNP is the armed
civilian national police force that employs approximately 170,000 personnel
within Regional Police Offices. Each division exercises independent control
over all police units within their respective areas of operation. The PNP is
a capable force but limited in its ability to respond to and assist victims of
crime and traffic accidents due to a lack of response vehicles, radios, and
other essential equipment.
The emergency lines in the Philippines are 911 and 117. You can also call 02-8722-0650. Report
all incidents of crime to the PNP. Remain calm and polite when interacting with
the PNP to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication. Download the State Department’s Crime
Victims Assistance brochure. U.S. travelers who feel that the police are harassing or extorting
them should contact that officer’s commander and to report the incident to the U.S.
Embassy. In the event of arrest or detention by the police, reach the U.S.
Embassy at 02-5301-2000.
Further local police contact numbers are as follows:
- Manila: 02-8523-3378 (District
Tactical Operations Center)
- Makati: 02-8843-7971 (Tactical
- Pasay: 02-8831-1544 (Tactical
- Quezon City: 02-8925-8417 (District Tactical Operations Center)
For fire assistance within the National Capital Region (NCR),
contact the Central Operations Center Hotline: 02-8410-6319. Bureau of Fire
Protection: 02-8426-0219 and 02-8426-0246
The following emergency lines relay fire alarms to respective fire
district by radio:
- Manila: 02-8827-3627 and
- Makati: 02-8818-5150 and
- Pasay: 02-8843-6523 and
- Quezon City: 02-8924-1922 and 02-8929-6-8363
There are many reliable local private security companies.
Adequate medical care is
available in major cities, but not all Philippine hospitals uphold the
standards of care, sanitation, and equipment of hospitals in the U.S. Medical
care is limited in rural and remote areas. In addition, traffic patterns in
Manila may prevent first responders from reaching persons in need. There are
many Western-trained Filipino doctors who are generally capable of providing
quality medical care, even when with sub-standard medical facilities. For a
list of doctors and medical facilities in the Philippines, consult U.S. Embassy
Manila’s Medical Assistance webpage.
Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost tens
of thousands of dollars. Most hospitals will require a downpayment of estimated
fees at the time of admission and full payment prior to discharge. In some
cases, public and private hospitals have withheld lifesaving medicines and
treatment until receiving payment. Many hospitals will not release a patient
until receiving full payment for services. The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
hosts mosquito-borne diseases that can be viral (e.g. dengue, chikungunya, and Japanese
encephalitis) or parasitic (e.g. malaria and filariasis). The
Philippines is a moderate risk location for Zika virus transmission. Health
officials in the Philippines have reported an ongoing outbreak of measles
throughout the country. U.S. citizens living in or traveling to the Philippines
should make sure they are vaccinated against measles with the MMR (measles,
mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Avoid contact with people who are sick. Health
officials have reported an outbreak of polio in the Philippines. The U.S.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all U.S. citizens living in or
traveling to the Philippines be fully vaccinated against polio. Before
traveling to the Philippines, adults who have completed their routine polio
vaccine series as children should receive a single, lifetime adult booster of
polio vaccine. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health
guidance for the Philippines.
OSAC Country Council Information
The OSAC Manila Country Council
generally meets on the third Thursday of each month, except in December. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s
East Asia & Pacific Team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy and
1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines 1000.
Embassy operator and after hour
emergency line: +63-2-5301-2000.
The Regional Security Office in
Manila is also responsible for Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands.
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in the Philippines:
U.S. Consular Agency, Cebu City, Waterfront Hotel, Ground Floor, Salinas Dr, Lungsod ng Cebu,
6000 Lalawigan ng Cebu, +63 32 231 1261.
you travel, consider the following resources: